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Making a living on vacations


December 23, 2011: Middle-aged mom and dad and their 23-year-old and 18-year-old sons. In a van. With a 42-pound dog. Traveling from Minnesota to Palm Springs, California, to visit Uncle Jeff over Christmas. 29 hours, 1,900 miles. Did I mention the van? How about the dog?

It really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it was a bit of an adventure, and it gave me a chance to have long talks with both boys. The rule was, if you were co-piloting, electronics were verboten. It was your job to talk to the driver, especially at 2 a.m.

Son Ben’s patience was tested at least once during our trek. Interstate 40 in New Mexico was closed due to blowing snow. The state patrol officer we encountered tersely told us to turn around and get a motel room, or pull over and spend the night in the car. Uh uh. We’re hearty Minnesotans. We’ve driven in worse. And by god, we were going to California.

So, we made the decision to reroute to a smaller, less traveled, and may I say, desolate highway 60. As far as the eye could see was flat terrain, a few tumbleweeds and blowing snow.

I’m a nervous rider when I’m either son’s co-pilot, and Ben, even though he’s 23, was making me nervous. I began to give advice, which was not so much sage as it was alarmed. My one entreaty, “Please don’t go in the ditch,” was met with a heavy sigh and an irritated, “Really, Mom, I’m not allowed to go in the ditch?” Gone were the fun conversations. Silence ensued while I white-knuckled the armrest. (And husband Doug dozed in the back with the dog.)

Ben and I could joke about it later, once we were in the Jacuzzi at our destination. It was 72 degrees, the sun was shining on the pool. What was that again? Blowing snow? I can hardly remember…

And that’s what a vacation does for us: Gives us a chance to vaguely remember our cares. When it’s sunny and you have your flip-flops on, sometimes your biggest problem is where the heck you put your sunglasses. There’s nothing like it.

For some franchisors, that’s what they do for a living: enhance the vacation for the rest of us. Tacky Jacks, our cover story this month, is a restaurant designed for tourist destinations in warm climes. FT Editor Nancy Weingartner visited the original restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama, to get the scoop.

Mary Jo can be reached at 612-767-3200 or at mlarson@franchisetimes.com

What she learned from her interviews is there is a lot of success to be had in tourist-related businesses. But you better know what you are doing: There are the off-peak times, and you have to control expenses and more while you juggle the demands of the restaurant business. There is so much more behind the scenes to consider while the rest of us just enjoy the fizzy drink with the umbrella. I’m glad they’re in charge.

Speaking of being in charge, this month is our annual Legal Eagles feature. This coverage includes a list of the top franchise lawyers in the nation as voted on by their peers, clients and the FT editorial staff. These individuals personify excellence, and are devoted to their clients and helping them succeed. Congrats to this prestigious group.

And, just a note, Franchise Times staff returned from our Franchise Finance Conference in Las Vegas last month with a bevy of information designed to help franchisors find financing for their system. Providing an excellent franchise opportunity means assisting with financing for your franchisees. You’ll want to check out our coverage of the event to find out the tips the experts, and other franchisors, gave to the group. And if you’re a franchisee reading this, you’ll learn what other franchisors are providing to their franchisees in the way of financial assistance.

We also have coverage on Facebook and Google, fast-casual pizza, employee fraud, and more. We load you up on all the news you can use to help your business be better. You may even want to grab this issue before you get on the plane for vacation. (Because sharing a van with man’s best friend can be messy. I’m still picking dog food out of the bottom of my purse.)


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